April 19, 2024

politics of law

Politics and Law

Four Outlandish Excuses Potential Jurors Gave to Avoid Parkland Shooter Sentencing Trial

4 min read
Last week marked the start of jury selection in the sentencing phase of the trial of 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine’s Day 2018. Last year Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the mass shooting.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the notoriety of the crime and the complexity and stakes of a death-penalty trial, and the stakes of the proceedings, the selection phase of the trial is expected to take several months.

But even putting aside crucial issues such as impartiality, scheduling conflicts, and insufficient fluency in English, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has had a particularly difficult time empaneling an impartial group of 12 (plus up to eight alternates) to decide Cruz’s fate; on the first day, one woman began crying in the courtroom and explained that her teenage son was a victim of gun violence.

Other impediments to the process have been less gut-wrenching — though hardly mundane.

Most people dread jury duty, and the selection process often brings a flood of excuses from citizens determined to talk their way out of fulfilling their civic obligation. But some of the mitigating circumstances Scherer has had to weigh have been flat-out absurd.

Here are four of the most outlandish reasons would-be Parkland jurors provided to avoid jury duty.

“I Have My Sugar Daddy That I See Every Day”

A woman Local 10 identified as “Mrs. Bristol” told Scherer she could not participate in the trial because she could not spend that much time away from her sugar daddy: “I have to figure out something,” she said. I have my sugar daddy that I see every day.”

Bristol later explained to reporters that she didn’t want to shirk her civic duty but it would constitute a financial hardship for her if she had to miss quality time with her sugar daddy, who financially supports her to the tune of $8,000 a month.

The woman, who told the judge she is also married, said serving on a jury for six months is not feasible for her or her glucose guardian.

Pet Duty

Sometimes one has to make a judgment call about what’s important in life — say, a high-profile court case or a house pet. In the case of one would-be Parkland juror, the latter ranked higher.

A woman who sought to be excused told Scherer that on top of suffering from hearing loss, she lived alone and had a pet at home. “I am the only one in my house, and I have a pet,” invoking the jury pool-equivalent of the age-old “my dog ate my homework” excuse.

Making the Best Empanadas in Town

While some potential jurors tried to leave the jury pool by citing to their responsibilities at home, one local man asked to be excused to fulfill a higher purpose.

The owner of Manny’s Cafe and Bakery in Margate told Scherer that he’s responsible for making the best empanadas in town and being away from his business would constitute a hardship for him and everyone in the community who enjoys his tasty creations. That drew a laugh in the courtroom, but the guy had a point valid point — Manny’s is a past New Times “Best Bakery” honoree.

The Cheetos and Water Diet

OK, so this last one isn’t a plea, per se, but we’re not convinced it’s not a veiled ploy to get out of jury duty by acting so strange that no one would want you to serve on the jury in the first place.

One man entered Judge Scherer’s courtroom carrying a gallon of water and two bags of Cheetos. What kind of person takes hydration and Cheetos intake equally seriously?

In that potential juror’s defense, jury selection in cases like this one does drag on, and the trial itself is bound to be a months-long endeavor. It’s crucial to stay hydrated and satiated, and even if this was a ruse, we salute Cheetos and Water Man for coming prepared.

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